Criminal Justice students present at conference in New Orleans


Rebecca Dunphy, Staff writer

When most people think of New Orleans at Mardi Gras, they think of colored beads, elaborate floats and parties on every street. But for three Mercyhurst criminal justice majors, it meant their first opportunity to attend a criminal justice-related conference.

Professor EmmaLeigh Kirchner, Ph.D., accompanied Eliza Kisiel, Ryan Prescott and Taylor Tharp to the 55th Annual Meeting of the American Criminal Justice Sciences from Feb. 13-17 at Hilton New Orleans.

Kirchner attends the conference annually, but this was her first time bringing a group of students.

“They all wanted to go to some sort of conference,” said Kirchner. “So I told them if they put in the work and do the research, I would take them.”

The students were able to join the more than 2,000 criminal justice enthusiasts who attended the event, including other students, professors and professionals in the field.

“They met with law enforcement professionals from throughout the country and some criminal investigators,” said Kirchner. “I think they learned the importance of networking.”

This certainly seemed to be the case for Tharp.

“Overall, the conference taught me the importance of meeting other professionals outside of our university because making those connections not only benefits us as a student but will also benefit us when we are professionals working in the criminal justice field,” said Tharp.

In addition to networking, the students also had the opportunity to present research of their own at the pictorial showcase.

At this two-hour event, 115 posters were presented and discussed, two of which were from Mercyhurst.

The poster entitled “Media Snags and Public Perception of the Police” was created by Kisiel, Prescott and Jacob Chichester, who did not attend the conference.

“As a group, we kind of came up with it (the idea) on the spot,” said Kisiel. “We knew we wanted to do something in regards to police perception in the public.”

Thus the group’s idea was born.

Kisiel also accompanied Tharp in her research, which culminated in the poster “‘No More’ Attention? An Examination of the No More Domestic Violence Campaign.”

“We researched how effective the campaign was in spreading awareness through social media sites such as, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram,” said Tharp. “I had recently taken a Psychology course on Antecedents of Aggression with Dr. Barron. This topic seemed to draw psychology and criminal justice together perfectly, which is why I was interested in conducting research on the ‘No More’ campaign.”

Kirchner was pleased to say that she received numerous compliments on their posters and projects.

Beyond presenting their research, students also had the opportunity to explore the local area, including the Museum of Death, a local police station, the French Quarter and Bourbon Street.

Also keeping with the spirit of Mardi Gras, students attended various parades.

Overall, students seem to have enjoyed their experience. Both Kisiel and Tharp said they “would love to go to another conference.”

“I would highly recommend anyone who is considering attending a conference in the future to go,” said Tharp. “It is an experience that let you represent Mercyhurst while also making connections that will benefit you after you complete your degree.”